If you are either a bread nerd or a fan of British baking you know about hot cross buns. These buns are traditionally made on Good Friday for Easter weekend. Typically you make a spiced dough enriched with milk, butter, and eggs then add raisins. You pipe a cross made of flour and water on top of each bun and brush on a honey glaze. They are delicious this way.

However, a few years ago I came across a recipe from Jamie Oliver for Chocolate Hot Cross Buns and had to try it. It did not disappoint and became my go-to recipe. The only change I made was to increase the salt and convert the recipe to cups instead of weight. I use weight and cups measures interchangeably because I am a complete bread nerd. If you don’t bake bread often you are probably more comfortable with cups so I went ahead and converted it.

Chocolate Hot Cross Buns Recipe

  • 2/3 cup whole milk or your favorite milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 rounded teaspoon Mixed Spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate, I use dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Crosses and Glaze

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Honey for glaze

Making the Dough

In a small saucepan heat the milk, butter, sugar, mixed spice, nutmeg, and salt just until the butter melts. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.

Milk and butter for Chocolate Hot Cross Buns.
Milk, butter, and spices for Chocolate Hot Cross Buns.
Scalded spiced milk.

A note about spices, I wrote a post about British Mixed Spice and highly recommend making up a batch for this recipe. You could just add cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice to the milk. I find it easier to use the blend. Also I use whole nutmegs for my baking. Whole spices have better flavor and last longer. However some of them are hard to grind up. Whole nutmegs are easy to grate whenever you need them and have such a good flavor.

When the milk mixure is lukewarm, stir in the egg and the dry yeast. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes to dissolve the yeast.

Mixed Spice.
Nutmegs and British Mixed Spice
Adding yeast and egg.
Dry yeast and an egg added to scalded milk.

Add the all-purpose flour and cocoa powder to the liquid ingredients and stir together. You will probably need to mix a bit by hand because its a stiff dough. I just mix it enough to incorporate all the flour and cocoa powder then cover it for a quick rest. This lets the flour absorb the liquids and get ready to rise.

Flour and cocoa powder added.
Flour and cocoa powder added to liquid mixture.
First mix of Chocolate Hot Cross Buns dough.
Initial mix of Chocolate Hot Cross Bun dough.

Kneading

If you’ve read my Basic Sourdough Bread recipe you know about the stretch and fold method. That method involves stretching the dough and folding it several times over a couple of hours instead of kneading. This dough is too stiff to do that so I replace that method with 3 kneading sessions over a few hours. Every 20 to 30 minutes I uncover the dough and knead it in the bowl. Each kneading sessions takes only a minute or less. Then I turn it to the smooth side and cover it for another rest.

Below you can see the difference between the 3 kneading sessions. The dough gets much smoother each time and much more elastic. You will also notice it rising between the second and third kneads. It takes about an hour and a half for yeast to really start multiplying so don’t expect much rise until the end of the kneading sessions.

After first kneading.
First kneading session.
After second kneading.
Second kneading session.
After third kneading.
Third kneading session.

Rising or Bulk Ferment

Let the dough rest for an hour or two so it can rise and double in volume. It should be really airy and puffy. Now it’s time to add the chocolate chips and raisins. I spread the dough out into a rough square and dump the chocolate chips and raisins on the dough. Fold the dough and gently work to incorporate them. The dough will tighten up and not be the easiest to work with. That’s the good gluten development you want in a dough. Just be patient and keep working them in the best you can.

Now set the dough to rise again until doubled and puffy. Below you can see the dough with the chocolate chips and raisins before and after rising. It’s not easy to see the size difference in these photos but in the second photo the dough was doubled in size. You can see the bubbles and that it’s very puffy.

Chocolate chips and raisins added to dough.
After bulk ferment.

Shaping and Final Rise

After you turn out the risen dough onto the countertop, it’s time to divide up the dough and shape the buns. Cut the dough into 12 pieces and gently shape each into a ball. I fold the dough over toward the bottom of the bun a few times until it’s a nice and tight. Try to not have too many chocolate chips or raising exposed on the bottom of the buns so they won’t burn. Not a huge thing to worry about, just something I do.

Set them to rise in a buttered pan. A 9 by 13 works well here. Now cover the buns and let them rise for about an hour. Again you are looking for them to be puffy and touching or nearly touching.

Dough ready to shape.
Dough shaped into buns.

Finishing and Baking the Hot Cross Buns

Once the buns are risen and puffy it’s time to put on the crosses. In a small bowl mix the 2 tablespoons of flour and tablespoon of water until smooth. It should be thick enough to make the cross shapes stay on top of the buns but not too thick to pipe on them. I pour the mixture into a small ziplock bag and snip the corner off to make a little piping bag.

When I’m making the crosses, I pipe a line across each row of four buns and then turn the pan and pipe across each row of three. You could make individual crosses on each one but it’s faster to do it in rows. Put the pan into a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 25 minutes. Lightly tap the top of a bun and it should sound hollow.

As soon as you pull them out of the oven, drizzle or brush each hot cross bun with honey for a shiny glaze. I drizzle on the honey and then brush it with a pastry brush as soon as the honey melts.

Crosses added.
Crosses on the risen buns.
Baked Chocolate Hot Cross Buns.
Baked Chocolate Hot Cross Buns
Glazed Chocolate Hot Cross Buns.
Glazed with honey.

Let the buns cool slightly or eat straight away if you can’t wait any longer. They are best the day they are baked but you can reheat or toast them the next day too.